Tag Archives: NASA

Ever Seen a Rocket Stage Separation? Not Like This!

It’s common to see video of rocket stage separations. Rockets have video cameras installed in them so you can watch the separation. Engineers use the video footage to analyse how well the separation happened, and to discover any problems. It’s very useful in failed separations. But take a look at this video of a UP Aerospace launch for NASA to launch the Maraia Earth Return Capsule.

The following video focuses on the separation as viewed from outside the rocket. You can see slow motion, which is quite interesting.

I’ve never seen a stage separation from that angle before. What did you think?

2015’s Biggest Science Story

What do you think is the biggest science story of the year? 2015 isn’t over yet, but I think it’s safe to say that we have a very good candidate already.

My choice is New Horizons at the Pluto system. Pluto was expected to be a certain way, somewhat like Triton, but it turned out to be completely unique. It was unexpected. It’s likely to still be active, since there’s a huge area covered by ices, there are tall mountains, and the colouration is providing a lot of questions. One of the more recent pictures showed the atmosphere over a horizon that was lit by the sun, and the surface shows mountains. This is that image:

nh-apluto-wide-9-17-15-final_0Click the image to see a larger version. Or go here to see the full sized image.

There are still many months of images to download from New Horizons, so we’ll get to see many more surprises over the next year or so.

So, what’s your choice for biggest science news of 2015?

Incredible Photo of Condensation Vortices from NASA

This is just neat. I saw this photo on Facebook, and had to share it.

See the vortices? You may think it’s photoshopped. It’s not. The conspiracy theorist may think it’s the propellers spraying chemicals. They’re not doing that, either. So what is it?

As the propellers spin, they create a low pressure region as the propeller blade moves out of a space, which in turn causes the water in the air to condense. These are basically thin little clouds. Neat, isn’t it?

What was your first impression when you saw the picture?

Beautiful New Image of Pluto’s Moon Charon

The New Horizons mission never ceases to amaze me. The most recent release from NASA about the mission is a full colour full globe view of Charon, Pluto’s largest moon. What you’ll see is a massive canyon down the middle, a red polar region, and what fascinates me is the horizon. It’s not at all smooth, but it shows how varied the surface is. Take a look.

High detail image of Charon in full colour.  Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
High detail image of Charon in full colour. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

If that isn’t enough, check out this image of Pluto and Charon together in full colour. Just look at how much red there is. Incredible!

Beautiful full colour image of Pluto and Charon. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
Beautiful full colour image of Pluto and Charon. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

You can view the full images at the NASA story that I linked to above. However, these are pretty big images, so sorry if they take a while to load.

But they are amazing, aren’t they? It’s going to take a long time until we understand what’s going on there. How did they come to look like that? What processes were involved? And it seems that Pluto is likely to still be active. With so many more months of images and data to come in, we’re just going to have to settle for months of incredible views of Pluto and Charon.

What do you think of the latest images?

Flowing Liquid Water Confirmed on Mars!

NASA has confirmed that flowing liquid water does exist on Mars. This is very big news, and this shows that liquid water is present on the planet, and the implications are huge.

Dark streaks that have been previously detected in Hale Crater confirmed to be hydrated salts.
Dark streaks that have been previously detected in Hale Crater confirmed to be hydrated salts. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

In recent years, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has shown images of long dark streaks on the walls of a crater that were suspected to be from liquid water flows. However, people were skeptical, since it could have been a landslide instead. But now, there is direct evidence that these streaks are hydrated salts. The salts, or perchlorates, have been previously detected by landers, such as Viking and Phoenix. However, this is the first time that hydrated perchlorates have been detected. That means that it was wet. Liquid water. This briny water can exist in liquid form at temperatures below freezing. The streaks disappear as temperatures get colder, but appear during warmer weather.

These streaks were previously seen in Garni Crater, and at that time were guessed to be from liquid briny water.
These streaks were previously seen in Garni Crater, and at that time were guessed to be from liquid briny water. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

This is really big. This means that there is flowing liquid water now on Mars. This kind of water is present on Earth in deserts, and it does support life. It’s very possible that life can exist on Mars today. It doesn’t mean that life does exist now, but we now know that it is likely to be able to support microbial life. Now we just have to examine these areas.

I don’t know about you, but I am very excited about this. This has been an amazing year for planetary science (just a recap: landing on and orbiting a comet, orbiting Ceres, Pluto flyby, Enceladus confirmed to have global liquid water ocean, Mars has liquid water). What can we expect next?

Who’s loving this news?

NASA’s Big Mars Announcement

Mars_23_aug_2003_hubbleSo, NASA has a big announcement coming about Mars tomorrow. There’s a lot of speculation about what it’s going to be. Water, ice, salt water, conditions for life, glaciers, flowing water, etc. Well, we already know about ice and glaciers. Can’t be that, can it?

They said it’s going to solve a mystery. Maybe it’s about flowing water? There have been many outflows seen, which could either be caused by landslides or flowing water. Maybe they’ve solved that mystery.

There’s a lot of hype leading up to this announcement, so it must be big. What do you think it is?

The Latest From Pluto Is Incredible

It’s been close to two months since New Horizons flew past Pluto, and only recently has it entered into the data transfer stage of the mission. It’ll take months for the images to be sent back to Earth. There’s a lot to send, and the best has yet to come.

But we got to see something special recently. Here’s a very detailed image, a mosaic of high resolution images that shows half of one hemisphere very clearly. It brings up a lot of questions, as it’s extremely dynamic. There are so many different kinds of geological features, it’s going to take a very long time to unravel the history of what we see.

nh-spherical-mosaic-9-10-15Amazing, isn’t it? Click on it to see a higher resolution image.

You can read a bit about it at NASA’s website.

So, how impressed are you with these images?

The Pluto Flyby in One Beautiful Video

It’s been a while since I posted about the Pluto flyby of New Horizons.  What’s making me write this post is an amazing video I saw of Pluto. It’s very short, so it won’t take up more than a few seconds of your time. Trust me, it looks great. In only 16 seconds, you will see 2 hours of images put together in a beautifully done animation.

This video was made by Bjorn Jonsson, and there are more videos on his Vimeo page. Here’s a quick video of Charon’s rotation.

And another of Pluto’s rotation.

Although these are short videos, a lot of work would be put into them. The frames would have to be aligned so that there’s no wobble and they’d also have to be scaled so they’re all exactly the same size.  Any gaps could be filled in with computer animation, but everything you see in these videos is real. He did a wonderful job, I think.

What did you think of the videos?

Ever Watch the Moon Pass In Front of the Earth? Incredible

I saw this earlier. This animation is from several still images of the moon passing in front of the Earth. The images were taken from the DISCOVR spacecraft about 1.6 million km away from the Earth. It’s a quick video, so it won’t take much of your time.

I don’t think there’s ever been a video or set of images like this before.

Just a note about the moon. You may notice that the leading edge is green. This is not because it’s a photoshopped fake. It’s because they take three images in different colours: red, blue, and green.  The green image just happened to be the last one taken, and the moon had already moved a bit, so that’s why it has a green fringe on the leading edge. There’s an argument on Facebook about this, and some people are claiming it’s a conspiracy. Those people just don’t understand how images are made from spacecraft. They don’t just take a colour photo, they take three monochrome photos at three different wavelengths that correspond to red, blue, and green. Then they combine the images to give a true colour image. Since there is a thirty second delay between the three images, this green offset is the result.

Anyway, incredible set of images!

Hello, Pluto. You Look Amazing.

Not too long ago, New Horizons passed by Pluto. It’s done, but New Horizons is still busy at work. It’ll be busy for a while collecting data and images of Pluto, Charon, Nix, Hydra, Styx, and Kerberos. But Pluto is the star here, and what an incredible journey it’s been. To be honest, I feel kind of speechless about this.

Earlier, I was checking Facebook while I was on break at work, and up popped this incredible image. It was one of the last images taken of Pluto before the flyby began. It was the clearest picture we have yet to see of Pluto, and it’s so hard to put in words what I was thinking when I saw it. Wow. I think that’s the word. Wow. I couldn’t stop looking at it.  I’ve now seen the image with my computer, and I still keep wanting to look at it. That is Pluto. Pluto!

I remember when New Horizons was launched. I was thinking that we’re finally going to see what Pluto looks like. I was hoping for something unique, something we’ve never seen before. I suspected it might look like Triton, considering it was a Kuiper Belt object. My thoughts about seeing Pluto felt kind of unreal. Like it was so far in the future, it was hard to imagine that moment. That moment has already passed, yet we haven’t seen the best images yet. Far from it. This latest image is pretty clear, and it shows a unique world like none we’ve ever seen before.

Say hello to Pluto.

Image Credit: NASA/APL/Southwest Research Institute
Image Credit: NASA/APL/Southwest Research Institute

Isn’t that incredible? Look at that huge bright area. And those dark regions. And you can see craters, complex features, and so much more. What are they? How were they created? Never mind that, just look at the image. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing images of Saturn’s unusual moon Hyperion, as well as the surface of Titan. But the anticipation of seeing Pluto was so great that the moment I saw this image, I said out loud with my coworker nearby, “Wow.”

Right now, New Horizons is taking images and data of Pluto and its moons, and is not communicating with Earth. In a few hours, it’ll send a message to Earth to signal that it has successfully completed its flyby. That moment will be a great relief, and will be the start of months of downloading from the probe and pure scientific research. And we’ll enjoy seeing the huge number of images that will have high enough resolution to see objects as small as one of the ponds in New York’s Central Park. That image further up this post is great, but we’ll be seeing far better images in the coming weeks. I can’t wait.

Congratulations NASA and the New Horizons team. This was worth the wait. Wow.